We have been raised in a society that tells us women are inferior to men. If we want to change this status quo, we have to begin to thinking outside the box and challenging patriarchal systems. One of the best ways to do this is by reading feminist literature.
To get you started, here are three groundbreaking feminist books that have empowered me to see the world through a different lens.
1. The Straight Mind and Other Essays by Monique Wittig
The Straight Mind is one of the most challenging feminist books that I have ever read. In it, Wittig explains the way heterosexual relationships impact how women think, act, and dress. Wittig describes heterosexuality can act “not as an institution but as a political regime which rests on the submission and the appropriation of women”.
Wittig’s work emphasizes the role that the mind plays in making the patriarchy possible. Specifically, she says that patriarchal rules and regulations shape how women think about themselves and the way they relate to men. In recognizing this reality, Wittig states that the patriarchy “grips our minds in such a way that we cannot think outside of it. This is why we must destroy it and start thinking beyond it if we want to start thinking at all”. Because it is filled with new ideas regarding how women can think and act outside the patriarchal box, Wittig’s work is a great resource for feminists who are ready to challenge the systems of oppression.
2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is celebrated as one of the most poetic, powerful pieces of contemporary literature. While the subject matter is diverse, feminist themes are at the foundation of this book.
As the novel progresses, the central character Pecola Breedlove becomes a victim of sexual assault, which drastically changes her life. In addition to becoming pregnant, the incident causes Pecola to fall into a state of insanity and isolation. A culture of victim blaming prevents the community from helping her, and the sexual abuse leads Pecola to step “over into madness”. The novel is a poignant reminder about the importance of listening to survivors.
3. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory by Toril Moi
Women who are ready to gain a deeper understanding of what feminism is should put Sexual/Textual Politics by Toril Moi at the top of their reading list. The book shows readers how feminism developed in multiple communities across the world.
Moi discusses several feminist works such as Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, which comments on how American women were becoming dissatisfied with domestic life. In discussing this work, Moi notes that many feminists had to grapple with the sexism even within their work as activists. In addition to this Moi also references Simone de Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, which explores how “women have been reduced to objects for men”.
Moi also discusses various other cultural realities that have impacted feminist movements including ideological views. For example, Moi notes the ways that British feminism has been more open to certain progressive ideas that American feminism rejects. Reading Moi’s book helped me gain a clear understanding of various strategies that feminists across the world have used to speak truth to power.
One of the best ways to challenge patriarchy is by reading feminist books. This works because it promotes work by women while empowering and inspiring the reader to resist sexism. Through reading books like this, we will gain a greater awareness of the role that patriarchy plays in harming people around the world and learn how to take action.
Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who found feminism in her late 20s. She has published several works on a wide range of feminist topics, including rape culture, gender identity, feminist literature, and misogynist music lyrics. Her favorite feminist books are Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In addition to volunteering with awesome organizations such as LiveYourDream.org, she enjoys doing yoga and sipping coffee while having great conversations with friends. Her objective for 2019 is working at the local level with other radical feminists to develop strategies for resistance to rape.